Mafia. What does this word mean? The actual members of the Mafia aren't even sure where the word first originated or what it really means. One of the theories as to where the word came from is from Sicily, where people would yell " Morte alla Francia, Italia anela!" (Death to France, Italy groans!), therefore forming the acronym MAFIA. Others claim the word derived from the battle cry of rebels who slaughtered thousands of Frenchmen after a French soldier raped a Palermo woman on her wedding day. Their slogan echoed her mother's cry, "Ma fia, Ma fia" (my daughter my daughter). There are other less "glamorous" stories as to where the word originally formed. The most likely reasoning says that it came from the Arabic word mahias, meaning bold man. The American Mafia has become infamous due to its leaders, its method of operation, and its impact on the economy through illegal means.
In 1903, Nicola Gentile, a native of Siculiana, Sicily, finding no occupation in his village, came to America as a stowaway on a ship to soon begin his life full of crime. Although barely able to read and write, he believed that he possessed an uncommon strength of will to be sinister. This trait would soon help him to rise to the high rank in the Mafia. After arriving in America, he was amazed at the grand vastness of the buildings and streets he was surrounded by, but moreover, by the attitude of the new people around him. They walked briskly, giving him the impression that all had an urgent mission to perform. "What a contrast with the inhabitants of my town, "he commented, "People who, when they walked, studied their manner of walking so that their slow strut made them appear solemn, with the thumb of the right hand hooked in the belt of the pants, with the cap tilted over the right eye, trying to create an arrogant air that should command respect." (Hank Messick and Burt Goldblatt 7). This idea of attitudes shows why a secret society such as the Mafia should luxuriate in Sicily, and could easily be transplanted into the ghettos of the New World. The associates of the Mafia are called fratellos. They are to obey a capo, which they elect. The capo then picks the consigliari (counselors), whom help him to make justice and judgments. When one of the fratellos finds himself in any sort of difficulty, the association tries to help and assist him. Soon hundreds of cities in America had their own associations. In the city of New York and Brooklyn alone, there were five. Between the heads of the borgates or families, they select the overall capo, which they call the capo di capi re, or king. The signature of the Mafia was a black handprint, and for a few years the society was known as the Black Hand. It was also commonly know by many people as the Honored Society. The Mafia mainly preyed on nonmembers among their own countrymen. Immigrants that were not familiar with the laws, traditions, and languages of the United States were easily victims of extortion and could be forced to pay a percentage of their earnings as they had done in the old country. Gentile told of settling a feud between a nephew and an uncle, simply by making the nephew a member of the Honored Society also. Gentile helped to make their relationship stronger than ever. It was by such acts of kindness that Gentile worked his way up to the role of Mafia troubleshooter in the United States. Over many years, he soon became know as "Uncle Cola," settling problems from New York to San Francisco. He was a peacemaker, as ironic as that may sound when dealing with the Mafia.
The Italian-Sicilian's were not alone in immigrating to the United States. The Germans, Irish, and European Jews also came in great waves, running from hunger and religious persecution. They not only had trouble adjusting to the other ethnic groups, but with accepting America's Puritan Ethic. It was based upon WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant), therefore the accumulation of...
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